Screwing up the Finish Won’t Ruin Your Project

Screwing up the Finish

The air was dirtier than I thought, and I got a lot of debris in the finish. So I stripped it and started over. Nothing was “ruined” or damaged.

I say this often. I’ve written it many times. Maybe I get the insight from the many years I’ve spent refinishing furniture. No matter how good or how careful you are, stuff still happens, and you have to strip off what you’ve done and start over. Every professional or semi-professional refinisher knows this because they’ve had to do it.

But woodworkers making new projects usually don’t do that much finishing, and many fret unnecessarily about avoiding mistakes. A great many woodworkers I’ve talked to or corresponded with have expressed a fear of “ruining” their woodwork, the actual word they usually use.

But you can’t ruin wood or joints or glue by stripping and starting over. You just have to add a little time to the total you’ve spent making the project.

Actually, I have one partial exception to add to this. If you are staining the wood and get it the wrong color, or decide you would rather have the wood unstained, you are in for a bit of work. Stripping won’t remove all the color, so you may have to sand to get more of the color out of the wood.

But you still haven’t “ruined” anything.

— Bob Flexner

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2 thoughts on “Screwing up the Finish Won’t Ruin Your Project

  1. BikerDad

    While I know there’s a lot of wisdom in what Bob’s saying, I think he’s forgetting one thing. The perspective of most woodworkers on finishing ranges from mild distaste to a deep and abiding hatred. While there are some who love finishing, such folk rarely continue to call themselves “woodworkers”, because they tend to shift heavily over to finishing/refinishing. It’s kinda like the world of autobody work. There are bodymen, and there are painters. Sure there are those who do both, but the differences between the two crafts tends to incur heavy preferences for one or the other and specialization, even among hobbyiests.

  2. Codfish

    That’s great advice. I know it should be done, but it is hard to bring yourself to do it. In the long run its the best. Thanks for the excellent tip. I feel better knowing I can rewind and start over.

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